Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesman Seng Lot announced that cleanliness in the Preah Sihanouk coastal area has improved considerably after authorities acted to prevent the release of “black water” into the sea.

He was speaking at a conference on the ministry’s progress held at the Council of Ministers on Monday regarding the release of blackwater into Ekareach, Ochheuteal and Otres beaches.

“We have tackled the issue by building four stations which can pump the blackwater into a water treatment reservoir first, therefore the water does not go into the sea [directly],” he said.

Lot said in future, the ministry would consider building water treatment capacity within stations. This would allow the water to be treated onsite, and reduce the cost of pumping the water via the reservoir.

“Pumping consumes oil, but when blackwater is treated on site, we can release it to the sea directly and reduce costs,” he said.

Lot said since becoming operational, pumping had massively reduced the issue of pollution along the beaches. He said: “We walked along the beaches and we do not see rubbish anymore.”

According to the government’s policy directive 1, he said from this year onwards, beaches are to become state property for use by the public.

Therefore, he said, these areas must be protected and their natural beauty maintained. This would allow the beaches to rank among the world’s most beautiful beaches club, he said.

The coastal beaches in Cambodia are located in Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kampot and Kep provinces.

Logging, land grabs and releasing blackwater into the beaches are all controversial issues in these areas which have long triggered criticisms from locals, activists and NGOs.

Sorn Chan Dara, a former member of Mother Nature, supported the government’s efforts to tackle some of the environmental issues Cambodia is facing. However, he said more serious steps needed to be taken to implement the law on ongoing issues such as logging and the release of blackwater.

“I ask the government and related ministries to work more effectively to stop the release of blackwater [into the sea] even if it’s only on a small scale, and prevent the grabbing of coastal areas in relevant provinces, not just Preah Sihanouk,” he said.

He said the release of black seawater at any point into the sea would be environmentally damaging for all coastal ports in the long term.